By Laura Silverman
Forget scouring internet forums for advice. Parents in the know are turning to apps – and even using their mummy (and daddy) crises to create their own social networks, says Laura Silverman.
THE PROBLEM My child needs a playmate
THE SOLUTION Mush, the app that helps you organise play dates
Former marketing director Sarah Hesz, 34, and City worker Katie Massie-Taylor, 33, met in a rainy playground in East Sheen 18 months ago, each with a newborn strapped to their front and a toddler clinging to a leg. Since becoming mums, they had struggled to find friends with children of a similar age outside their NCT groups, so they launched Mush in April 2016. Mums create a profile and are matched with others based on their location and the age of their children. By logging in through your Facebook account, you can see whether you have any friends in common and whose children are free to play. The app has 140,000 users – ‘muddy puddle play dates’ are very popular.
THE PROBLEM When is the school trip?
THE SOLUTION Classlist, the virtual school gate
Susan Burton, 50, and Clare Wright, 46, lived jet-setting lives in India and Brazil with their families. But when the expats and former management consultants finally settled in Oxfordshire a few years ago, they struggled to keep up with what was going on at their children’s schools.
Susan, whose children are now ten, 14 and 16, and Clare, whose children are nine, 12 and 14, started Classlist in 2014. The app enables parents to go to a virtual school gate and chat to other parents in their child’s class. They can ask whether their child really doesn’t have any homework, find out about trips and swap photos of end-of-term concerts. There’s also a school-run share map to help parents organise lifts. More than 720 schools in the UK have signed up.
THE PROBLEM My babysitter has let me down
THE SOLUTION Bubble, the app that lists local sitters
Friends Ari Last, 32, and Adrian Murdock, 43, met when they were working at online betting company Betfair and bonded when they became dads four years ago. ‘The sudden loss of independence and spontaneity was the hardest thing to come to terms with after having a child,’ says Ari. ‘Adrian and I each found it hard to book a babysitter and get out of the house, especially at short notice, and we realised that we weren’t alone.’
In July 2016 they launched Bubble, an app that enables parents to scroll through profiles of local babysitters, see if friends or connections through nursery or school recommend them, then make a booking. It now has more than 4,500 users. ‘We’ve found that parents no longer book sitters just for going out on a Saturday night,’ says Ari. ‘Some book them for 7am at the weekends so that they can have a lie-in.’
THE PROBLEM I need an adult conversation!
THE SOLUTION Peanut, the app that matches like-minded mums
When Michelle Kennedy, 34, had her son three years ago, she felt incredibly lonely. ‘I had lots of friends, but they weren’t new mums,’ says Michelle, a lawyer and founding member of the dating app Bumble. ‘My friends introduced me to mums they knew, but meeting up was awkward because the only thing we had in common was that we’d had a baby. I then felt even more isolated. I hadn’t lost my identity just because I was a mum. I wanted to meet like-minded people.’
Michelle, who lives in Hampstead, North London, devised Peanut last February. The app matches mums with similar interests, from speaking Spanish to drinking wine. They can then ‘wave’ at each other in the same way as someone might ‘like’ a potential suitor on a dating app. Mums can also create group chats and are encouraged to host get-togethers.
THE PROBLEM My children are bored
THE SOLUTION Hoop, the child-friendly listings app
Two years ago Max Jennings, now 37, schlepped his two-year-old daughter across London to an arts and crafts class that he was convinced she would love. ‘When I got there, I felt let down because it was aimed at older children. The listing had been out of date. I thought it was crazy that there wasn’t an easier way to find suitable activities for kids,’ he says.
Max decided to create Hoop with his brother Duncan, 34, and a couple of friends (they had previously set up the money-saving website vouchercodes.co.uk). The app, which launched in February last year, lists more than 20,000 events and activities across the country, from classical concerts for babies to cookery classes, showing results based on where the users live and the age of their children. More than 200,000 families have downloaded the app.
THE PROBLEM I can’t keep up with my child’s social life
THE SOLUTION Coo, the virtual diary
Shilpa Bhandarkar, 38, once forgot to give her daughter £1 for a charity cupcake sale. Amit Rai, 37, once forgot to take his son to a classmate’s birthday party. Both children forgave them, but friends Shilpa and Amit realised that it was a miracle they didn’t forget things like that more often. They both had another child and demanding jobs – Shilpa worked at a law firm, Amit worked in tech – and calculated that parents of two young children have to keep track of an average 574 dates a year.
Shilpa and Amit, whose children are now four and seven, launched Coo in July 2016. They describe it as ‘WhatsApp meets Google Calendar’, allowing parents to enter events into a diary and change the settings so that only certain parents see them, as well as enabling chats. Coo has several thousand users – Jools Oliver, wife of Jamie and mother of five children, is a fan – with most parents accessing the app five times a day.